In the eight years that I have been dealing with the behavioral issues of my sweet little Katie, I have never ever been approached by an adult. Last night was a first. I was sitting reading my new bible study (which I just love), “What Happens When Women Say Yes to God” when I looked up at Katie’s gymnastics class. She was enjoying the balance beam. Her instructor had her tossing a stuffed animal with another student in the class. This was all to teach balance and of course to have fun. I glanced back to my book and started to become engrossed again in Lysa TerKeurst’s words. Looking up from time to time, I noticed Katie had moved to the floor. Her instructor was taking them into an obstacle course of frontward and backwards somersaults to cartwheels to handstands and lastly back walkovers. It seemed like fun and certainly was keeping Katie’s attention which trust me is a hard thing to do. Keeping Katie focused on anything is next to impossible, but gymnastics seems to do the trick.
It was at this moment that I noticed Katie redirecting a smaller child in her group. The girl seemed lost and confused with all these obstacles. I mean who wouldn’t be? Katie has been in this same class for the last 6 months so she knows the drill and she does tend to be a bit “bossy.” Her Montessori school background teaches her to help the younger kids, and some kids don’t like it when they are told what to do. I know this because Katie is that way, but it is all part of the process of what I like to call learning. We have to learn to take directions from all types of people. It is how we handle that situation that tells a lot about us as adults. When the child didn’t listen to Katie she touched the child on her shoulders to turn her toward the correct position. The child’s mom didn’t like this and turned to two other moms who said – “Did you see that? That girl just pushed your daughter.” The mom then turned to me and said, “Is that your daughter?”
I tried to make light of an erupting situation and mistakenly said, “Oh you mean the bossy one – yep she is mine.”
The mom didn’t like my response (which is when I realized that this wasn’t just a casual conversation anymore). She said, “Well, I hope you are going to go talk with her about that. She did the same thing to my daughter last week.” The other two moms were nodding at me in agreement with this mom. One of the mom’s chimed in, “Yea she did do it last week.” I started to realize that I was being ganged up on. I have to say, I didn’t really like the feel of it. In fact, it brought the pit of my stomach up to my throat. I could feel the sadness bubbling up inside of me.
Because I had been reading my bible study (remember “What Happens When Women Say Yes to God”), I knew that God was calling me to do something, but I still wasn’t sure what it was he needed me to do (#yestoGod).
I decided to put a halt to this conversation. I explained, “Yes, I will talk with her about what happened after class. You see, my daughter has a seizure disorder and her meds do cause behavioral issues. We deal with these issues everyday and I have come to find that it works better to talk with her outside of public areas.”
I then walked away from the moms. As I was walking away the other two moms could see the tears forming in my eyes. Their words were hurtful. I know people don’t understand Katie, and I could see the judgment that was unfolding in their minds. They could see that they had surpassed my personal boundaries. I prayed that they could see that I was a caring, loving mother that would never allow my child to push another child on purpose.
One of them caught my arm and said, “You have her in the right place. Activity certainly can help kids that have behavioral issues.” I nodded but quickly walked further away. The damage was done: their words had sent me into a tailspin.
I wish I could say it stopped there, but the mother who started the entire conversation came up to me again. “If you don’t take care of your child, I will contact the office and ask that she be removed.”
Are. You. Kidding. Me. Deep breaths. I did not make eye contact with the mother, but I said, “You should do whatever you feel you need to do.”
This is when the tears were streaming down my face. I slid on my sunglasses and wished that I wasn’t stuck in this very uncomfortable place in front of many people. How could anyone be so cruel? After all of our struggles with Katie, I never would have pinned this situation as a behavioral dilemma. I immediately went to Katie’s instructor and apologized if we were causing any chaos to her day. I felt horrible that this mother would be approaching the instructor with this little issue and making it into something gigantic. The instructor who has known Katie for six months told me not to worry. She had seen nothing wrong with Katie’s behavior. She also added that she has never had a problem with Katie in class. Katie was standing right next to me with tears in her eyes, all the while apologizing to her instructor and to me. We all agreed that from now on her instructor would handle the kids in the class, not Katie.
So when I returned home from this mess of a situation, I asked myself, “Why on earth did you do that to me God? Why did you call me to humility like that?” (#yestoGod)
Leviticus 19:18 Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.
So I prayed for the mother of that child. (#yestoGod)
Lord, take her up into your arms today. She is hurting for her child. She is in need of your healing spirit. Please Lord, give her peace. Let Your light shine into her heart. Let her open her heart to you, today. Send her all she needs to release her stress and allow her to be the mother that you made her to be.
Then I prayed for me. (#yestoGod)
Lord, take away my angry and sad thoughts. Take away the pain that was inflicted upon me. Do not let those harsh words affect me as the mother that you made me to be. Let me move on with my day. Let me sleep in your loving arms.
Who ever said that bullies are young teenagers? Bullies come in all sizes and shapes. Bullies can come in the form of our friends. Bullies can be strangers. Bullies use their words to entangle us into their world; a world that they usually do not want to be in themselves. I refuse to allow this bully to take me into that place. I refuse to let evil infiltrate my soul. I am choosing God today. I am choosing to rise above what has been thrown at me.
Philippians 2:3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves
We all encounter people every day that are selfish and could be considered bullies. Bullying by definition is “an unwanted, aggressive behavior among people that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose.” (This definition is from http://www.stopbullying.gov). The interesting part of all this is the mother used bullying tactics to stop what she considered to be bullying.
I broke that cycle. I refused to give into acting like a bully. Whether it is your boss, a co-worker or a stranger, don’t opt to respond by bullying. Don’t opt to give up God’s message. Treat everyone as more important than yourself. It will be one of the most humble opportunities of your life. It will model God more than anything else you could do. It will be hard. It will be uncomfortable. It may even feel like you are giving in. You aren’t though. You are giving the person a gift; you are giving them God.